Close connections to the Apple Cup are aplenty and abound on both sides.
It’s rivaly week in Washington – the Huskies and Cougars are preparing to settle yet another intra-state grudge match, set for Saturday in Pullman.
This is UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s second taste of the Apple Cup. He’s much more familiar with the feelings of it after last year’s 30-0 UW triumph over the Cougars in Seattle.
“I’ve tried to jump into this rivalry,” Sarkisian said, “with two feet.”
For others, a tug of childhood loyalty will exist:
* The Locker family has always admired the Apple Cup, from near and far.
“My godparents were huge Husky fans, so they always pushed the Huskies on me, and made sure that’s who we were rooting for on Saturdays,” UW quarterback Jake Locker said.
For Casey Locker – Jake’s cousin – the pull was going to Pullman as a defensive back. He is still at WSU as a reserve.
“It’s not like I’m not going to talk to him (Casey), or hate him this week. I’ve followed him all year, and wished him the best all year,” the UW senior said. “A little different this week – I don’t wish him as good this week. (But) it’s not like that. Ask any player, you’re not going to hate those guys, and those people you’ve had in your life all your life.
“It’s just hoping we come out on top this week, and not them.”
* Then comes the Fresno, Calif. fraternity – specifically ties to Clovis West High School.
Jeff Tuel, now the WSU quarterback, came to Clovis West in 2006 – where current UW safety Nate Fellner already was a member.
In 2007, the key members of that high school’s offense was Beau Sweeney at quarterback (now at California); Fellner at running back and Tuel at receiver.
A year later when Sweeney – grandson of former WSU coach Jim Sweeney – graduated, Tuel took over as the quarterback for just his senior season.
“We’re real good friends still,” Fellner said. “Yeah, I was just talking to him an hour ago (Monday morning), and I told him I was watching him on film and he made some good plays, so I gave him a little kudos. We keep in touch a lot still.”
Touch is one thing. On Saturday, it’s tackle. Would it be difficult for Fellner to give his close buddy a clean, hard lick in the backfield?
“I mean, he’s my friend, and then we get on the football field, he’s my opponent. That is how I’m going to treat it,” Fellner said. “Nah, nah – it’s not going to be hard.”
Other stuff Monday:
* Even without harping on the topic, Sarkisian thinks his players will be on their best behavior this week when it comes to addressing questions about the Cougars.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t mentioned it to them. We’re at a point now where the message has been very clear from day one and we have not wavered on opponent versus another opponent,” Sarkisian said. “I think our guys are very respectful of Washington State.”
It helps Kavario Middleton, who bragged the Huskies would pile on the points against WSU before the 2009 Apple Cup. Middleton is now a tight end at Montana.
“All of us are smart enough to realize, these guys are a good team, and there doesn’t need to be any trash-talking,” Huskies linebacker Cort Dennison said. “These guys, trust me, have all of our attention, and they definitely have all of our respect.”
* As far as injuries from the UW’s 16-13 victory over California, Sarkisian said left tackle Senio Kelemete (right ankle) will be in a protective boot for the early part of the week with a high ankle sprain, suffered right after he pulled inside to take a Bears defender out.
At best, the junior will be questionable to play against the Cougars.
If Kelemete is unable to go, Ryan Tolar – who was available to play Saturday with a sprained knee, but did not see action – would move back to left guard, and Erik Kohler would shift out to left tackle.
As far as punter Kiel Rasp (back spasms), Sarkisian said the walk-on sensation should be fine this week.
* After Chris Polk scooted into the end zone on the final play Saturday to give the Huskies the stay-alive victory, 20-30 UW players jumped into the area where Polk and fallen down, celebrating the touchdown.
Dennison said after the game that nothing good ever comes out of a dogpile on a football field. Did Sarkisian ever consider joining his players in the celebration?
“Initially, I kind of ran out there and I thought to myself the right thing to do is shake coach (Jeff) Tedford’s hand,” Sarkisian said. “By doing that, I avoid getting trampled in that dogpile, too. I didn’t want to get caught up in that fray either.”
* In fact, it’s real praise for WSU coming out of the Huskies’ camp this week.
On Monday, linebacker Mason Foster, the leading tackler in the Pacific-10 Conference, noted that the Cougars have a “great quarterback, great running backs, great center. …”
Complimenting a center (it’s Zack Williams, by the way)?
“I was watching film earlier, and he was doing a good job,” Foster said. “We’ve faced a lot of good O-linemen, and he’s up there. He’s real aggressive. I remember him from last year (Williams played offensive guard).”
* With the Apple Cup forecast calling for temperatures in the high 20-degree range, and the possibility of snow, count Huskies safety Nate Williams as one of those who hopes the white stuff doesn’t visit.
“This might sound crazy, but I hate the rain, I hate the cold, even though I’m from Seattle,” Williams said. “I hate playing in cold and rain, just because you’re wet and you’re heavy and your fingers get numb, your toes get numb. It’s just real uncomfortable.
“I know it will be real cold over there. Just if there’s no snow, I’ll be all right.”
When reminded that San Diego – site of the Holiday Bowl where the UW could wind up with an Apple Cup win – is very warm, Williams shook his head.
“I know that,” he said.
* On a side note, if the Huskies do, indeed, topple WSU in the Apple Cup, tickets for whateve bowl game they are invited to will be available for purchase sometime early Sunday night.
** MONDAY PRACTICE: Outdoors, and most of the key figures practiced, including quarterback Jake Locker (ribs). … Left tackle Senio Kelemete (ankle) was speed-walking around the field, and looked surprisingly spry. Sarkisian admitted afterward he was “encouraged” by what he saw. … Safety Sean Parker (shoulder) wore the no-contact red jersey, but practiced.
Also some stuff from Sarkisian’s radio show:
* On the UW’s final, season-saving drive: “That was a Jake Locker drive.”
* On Locker’s throw to Jermaine Kearse being a duck: “Much better there than out of bounds.”
* On Quinton Richardson coming on at cornerback: “Playing as good as we’ve had on the defensive side of the ball.”
* On the possibility of seeing snow in the Apple Cup: “Been exposed to odd elements already. This will just add to it.”
* On the referee’s decision at the end of the first half to grant Cal one second of time: “Thought it was real clear the time was gone.”